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Patients demanding more privacy
By Liang Qiwen (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-13 01:05

Medical privacy seems suddenly is centrestage amid a growing outcry among more and more patients for their rights to be protected by doctors and hospitals.

Doctors and patients say that outpatient rooms should be transformed to allow individual examination rooms units for doctors and a patient at a time to help protect patients' health information and privacy.

In most of hospitals here, a diagnosis room usually has more than two working desks. More than two doctors diagnose for more than two patients at the same time.

Patients often complain that their symptoms and illness can be overheard by other doctors or other patients, and their privacy is violated.

Such a scene in China used to be seen as acceptable.

Xiang Liang, a 22-year-old woman, said her catamenia had stopped for several months, and she decided to see a doctor in Third Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University.

In the diagnosis room, there were two doctors and another patient.

The first question her doctor asked her was "Are you experiencing sexual behaviour?" which made her feel extremely shameful.

"Diagnosis rooms should have only one doctor, Xiang said. "Nobody wants others to know their medical problems. That's a private concern.''

Jiang Chaoqiang, president of No 12 Hospital of Guangzhou, told China Daily that several doctors share a common diagnosis room, which is a normal practice in most hospitals.

Many more rooms may be needed if one room per patient and doctor is required. In addition, more medical facilities would have to be purchased to equip the rooms, Jiang said, requiring a stiff investment.

He hopes the government can offer more support if such a project is required.

Actually, patients' medical records and health information can be easily seen by others when examination reports are piled up and other patients rifle through the records to find their own information.

And when a patient stays in the hospital, a card is generally hanging on his or her bedside, which records the patient's illness, which is believed more convenient for doctors. In China, except for rare intensive care situations, several patients share one ward.

But some patients are complaining the record card is a violation of their privacy because other patients in the same room and the people who come to see them can see the information.

The injection room in hospital usually is a shame-making place, for the room is shared by male and female patients.

Jiang said his hospital has separated the injection room for different genders. But many other hospitals have not.

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